First tax holiday a resounding success

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 9, 2009

The saying used to be, “If they can put a man on the moon, …” These days, we more often hear, “If they can bail out AIG for $85 billion, …”

The latter would apply regarding the Legislature’s willingness this year, after many years of requests, to accede to a sales tax holiday to give folks a short break from Mississippi’s 7 percent levy on almost all retail transactions.

The 48-hour break last weekend was embraced by thousands of shoppers in Vicksburg, most of whom were buying back-to-school clothing items of the type specifically listed as exempt by the state. Wisely, several merchants coupled the state’s “discount,” with discounts of their own and promoted bargains for customers.

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During the debate in Jackson, some lawmakers questioned whether Mississippi could “afford” giving up 48 hours of revenue.

The better question, and the one that prevailed, was whether the government could refuse to give families breaks amounting to a few dollars each, at most, when so much of their tax money is being spent to prop up firms deemed “too big to fail.”

Sales tax holidays have become routine in many states, including Louisiana — and that state has managed to survive. This year, Mississippi’s first venture has come before Louisiana’s, which was this weekend and, by the way, applied to almost all purchases up to $2,500. That meant dollars were spent here that had been being spent in Louisiana stores.

The Legislature should continue and expand tax holidays, especially those targeted to families. After all, what’s good for children and parents and merchants can’t be bad for the state, can it?